Fiancée of high school principal who died while donating bone marrow to 14-year-old boy sues hospital for negligence
44-year-old Derrick Nelson, who was the principal of Westfield High School, did not know the 14-year-old he was planning to help
WESTFIELD, NEW JERSEY: The fiancée of Dr. Derrick Nelson, a New Jersey high school principal who died in February this year after donating bone marrow to a sick French teenager, has filed a lawsuit against Hackensack University Medical Center and an anesthesiologist involved in the procedure.
Sheronda Braker, Nelson’s fiancée and the mother of his 6-year-old child, has alleged in her suit that the Hackensack Meridian Health center failed to adequately monitor and treat Nelson.
The 44-year-old man, who was the principal of Westfield High School and an officer in the Army Reserves for more than 20 years, did not know the 14-year-old he was planning to donate the bone marrow to. They connected online through Be the Match, a worldwide bone marrow registry network.
Before the transplant was supposed to take place in February, Nelson told the school website that there were several health issues that hindered the process.
As Nelson had sleep apnea, which prevented them from using general anesthesia, doctors decided to harvest stem cells intravenously, the Daily Mail reported.
His final medical checkup took place on January 21, when he was asked if he had a condition called sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder.
"I said well I don't have sickle cell, but I have the sickle cell trait," Nelson was quoted as saying by the school website. He also said doctors told him that meant they couldn't harvest the stem cells.
As a result, the doctors finally agreed to conduct the bone marrow surgery under a local anesthetic.
The lawsuit accused the hospital staff of continuing to administer anesthesia while Nelson's oxygen level decreased drastically, sending him into a coma. They also allegedly failed to supply him with additional oxygen at the time, resulting in the principal's death weeks later, on April 7.
“Unfortunately, this selfless act took Dr. Nelson’s life as the anesthesiologist committed medical malpractice during the procedure, leading to Dr. Nelson suffering severe brain damage and ultimately death several weeks later,” attorney David Mazie, representing Nelson's family, said, CBS New York reported.
According to reports, Braker and Nelson were planning to get married on June 29. "Derrick was an amazing human being; very generous, loving, giving of himself," Braker said. "He was the type of person that just wanted to make a difference."
Meanwhile, Hackensack Meridian Health center has issued a statement on Monday, regarding the lawsuit: "We were saddened by the tragic death of Dr. Derrick Nelson and have shared our deepest sympathies with his family, his students, the community, his friends and colleagues he touched. He leaves a remarkable legacy as an educator and veteran. We are unable to say more at this time due to the litigation process; however, we have been in communication with the family through their legal representation. It is important to note that the safety of our patients remains our primary focus and we have one of the largest and most experienced transplantation teams in the country."